I don’t know what my life would be without Koller. I don’t know who I would be without Koller. In 1971 I was a poetry crazy college kid in Waterville, Maine. I came across a copy of Coyote’s Journal #9 and discovered a whole new world of poets – Koller, Beltrametti, Lew Welch, Paul Blackburn, Drummond Hadley, Keith Wilson... I got so excited that I wrote the editor, James Koller, a fan letter c/o Bookpeople in Berkeley, Calif. A few weeks later a reply came, from Wayne, Maine. Koller was only 30 minutes away, and invited me to come visit. I managed to overload myself with painkillers and anti seizure meds and drove off the road on my way there. Koller arrived, pony tail and earring, with a big dog (Thomas) in a power wagon, and pulled me out with a chain. We spent an afternoon talking about poetry and when I left he gave me a copy of On Bear’s Head, by Phillip Whalen. A few months later he came to Colby College to read his poems, and I had never heard poems read that way.
A couple of years later I was hitchhiking back to Maine after living at Gary Snyder’s for a few months. Koller was sending me postcards trying to find me, to tell me that if I could get back to Maine I could have a bookstore job working with him. In late fall of 1973 we opened Bookland of Lewiston (On opening day there was a full wall display of every Black Sparrow Press title in print –) Over forty years later and I’m still working in a bookstore.
Koller turned me on to poets, to poems, to bookstore work. He encouraged me to start a little press, Blackberry, and our first titles reflected his interest – chapbooks by Franco Beltrametti, Bill Deemer, Bobby Byrd, John Brandi, Barry Gifford, Steve Sanfield, Ted Enslin, Koller. He was a mentor, a guide, a friend and ally. We have shared a lot. It has been a long, rich trip. I don’t want to say goodbye. I want to say thank you. I want to say I love you, Koller.